Film and TV drama
What does a production secretary do?
A production secretary is the main point of call for any administrational or organisational tasks before and during a production. They mainly work in the office but are sometimes on set too.
One of the production secretary’s most important jobs is diary management. During preproduction, they make sure every meeting is put in the diary, usually on Outlook or Google Calendar. They then contact the people attending the meeting with details of where and when it is taking place. Production secretaries work closely with producers, managing their diaries and acting as a point of contact for people who need to speak to them.
The production secretary also helps the people working on the production. They get crew members set up to work, raising their contracts. They also write and send out starter packs that contain all the information crew members need, such as location addresses and contact details.
The unit list - a register of all the crew members involved in the production – needs to be kept up to date by the production secretary as different people join the set regularly. It’s distributed across the entire production and often used for creating credits, so it’s important the production secretary keeps a master list.
Production secretaries order equipment, particularly low-cost items like batteries and lens wipes. They also send out script changes to crew, cast and their agents. Sometimes they get in touch with agents for administrational details like costume measurements or dietary requirements. They also deal with booking taxis to get cast members home or back to their hotels after a shoot.
Production secretaries also help organise recces to check out a location and see what needs to be set up technology-wise. They ensure that everyone needed on the recce gets the itinerary and information they need. Sometimes the production secretary will also book transport.
Working as a production secretary is a great way to learn the logistics behind making a film or TV drama and is a step on the ladder to production manager.
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What's a production secretary good at?
- Organisation: planning, multi-tasking, working calmly under pressure
- Teamwork: following instructions, listening carefully, asking for direction when appropriate, using initiative
- Communication: sharing information with heads of department, writing clear emails
- Budgeting: keeping records of spending and controlling it
- Innovation: finding solutions to problems, dealing with the unexpected
- Knowledge of filmmaking: understanding the process and needs of each department
- Responding quickly and finding alternative solutions
- Developing contacts, especially with crew and contractors so they can source kit and find back-up crew members if needed
Who does a production secretary work with?
A production secretary reports directly to the production coordinator and works closely with the assistant production coordinator.
They work more broadly with all other areas of the production including cast, crew, agents, producers and directors.
How do I become a production secretary?
Most production secretaries start off as production assistants or runners. That way they can learn the skills they need to progress to production secretary from there can become an assistant production coordinator, production coordinator and eventually a production manager, if they want to.
Working in the production department is a good role for people who have acquired business or project management skills in another industry and want to move into film and TV. Hospitality is a great area to have worked in as you will have dealt with people, finances and logistics.
It also helps if you can drive, especially outside of London. If getting a driving licence is a financial barrier to you, consider applying for a ScreenSkills bursary to help you pay for it.
At school or college:
A-levels or Highers in film studies, media or art and design would be helpful qualifications. As this is a role that combines understanding film production with project management and accounting, subjects that develop your skills in that way are useful too. Combine film studies with business or business studies and maths for a well-rounded skillset. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
- OCR Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
- BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
- Diploma in Production Accounting for Film and Television
- IAO Diploma in Accounting
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
- BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
- BTEC National Diploma in Photography
Selected schools and colleges have also started offering T-levels – a qualification designed to help you get into the industry you’re interested in. They are 80% classroom-based with the remaining 20% on a work placement. A T-level is equivalent to three A-levels.
The following T-levels would help kickstart your career production:
- Media, Broadcast and Production
- Digital Production, Design and Development
Get an apprenticeship:
An apprenticeship is a job with training, so it’s a great opportunity to earn as you learn. You might be able to find a production secretary apprenticeship, but it can be challenging to find apprenticeships within production companies.
It might be worth looking for a job as an apprentice in an industry that uses similar skills such as project management, business or accountancy. You can then transfer into being a production secretary at a later point, so long as you keep up your interest in film and TV drama and develop your contacts.
Check out What is an apprenticeship? to learn more about apprenticeships and find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one in your region, or approach companies directly. Go to ScreenSkills information on apprenticeships for the main apprenticeship schemes in film and television.
Get a degree:
It is not essential to get a degree in order to become a production secretary, but if you’d like one, choose a course you’re passionate about. It doesn’t have to be directly linked to the screen industries. For example, the skills you’ll learn on an English or history degree, such as research and problem solving, will come in useful for production management.
If you want to do a course that’s industry-focused, take a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the film and TV industry.
You can also join the student union film society and work on voluntary projects that will help build your experience.
Get experience in organising:
While you are trying to break into film, get management or project management experience. Any job that involves planning, organising and budgeting will give you good experience. Hospitality is a great area to transfer from as it combines all of these – as well as experience with people.
Go to ScreenSkills’ events like Open Doors to meet people working in development departments. Give people in the production department your contact details and ask if you can do work experience. Go to How to network well for some tips.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making films or TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales Screen, Northern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.
Become a trainee:
Get onto ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. Get the skills, make contacts and start working as a production trainee.
You might also be interested in…
You might want to look at general secretary or personal assistant jobs in the industry. The CEO of a big production company will have a personal assistant, for example.
You may also want to look at working as a production coordinator in commercials, music videos, visual effects (VFX) or animation. You could also look at roles as an assistant games producer or a production assistant in Unscripted. Build up your skills whatever way you can.
- The Production Guild
- Shooting People
- Below the Line: Find Film Work
- Screen Daily
- Box Office Mojo
- BAFTA Guru – YouTube Playlists
- ScreenSkills resources directory
- Development department
- Production management department